- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

Members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee are calling for an audit of the party's books, now that the committee's former executive director has become embroiled in a federal embezzlement investigation of the Washington Teachers Union.

But Democratic leaders said the requested audit has been long overdue and has nothing to do with accusations that former Executive Director Gwendolyn M. Hemphill was involved in the misappropriation of about $5 million from the teachers union since 1995.

"I have personally asked [Chairman Norman C. Neverson] for an audit of our books as a precautionary measure, and he has informed me that will happen," said Pat Elwood, vice chairman for the Democratic Party.

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Party Treasurer Linda Moody said, "The audit should not be done because of anything related to [Mrs. Hemphill]," but because it has been two years since the last accounting.

Ms. Elwood concurred, saying she expects the audit to reveal nothing but clean bookkeeping. She said she has confidence in accounting consultant Howard Krietzman, who was hired last year to help with record keeping.

"The audit will be done as we go into our next cycle and I will announce it at our monthly meeting next Thursday," Mr. Neverson said.

The 2003 cycle has begun, he said, and the audit should begin within the next three months.

Mrs. Hemphill, who resigned as the party's executive director this month, is under federal investigation in the teachers union scandal. Former union President Barbara A. Bullock, former union Treasurer James O. Baxter II and several others are being investigated with Mrs. Hemphill, Miss Bullock's former aide.

Miss Bullock, Mr. Baxter and Mrs. Hemphill have denied any wrongdoing. The three were named in an FBI affidavit that was used to raid their homes and those of some family members last month. The searches turned up thousands of dollars worth of luxury items and financial documents, which were seized by FBI agents.

The U.S. attorney for the District on Monday charged Leroy Holmes, a former chauffeur for Miss Bullock, with conspiracy to launder proceeds of an unlawful activity. Mr. Holmes is the first to face criminal charges in the case. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

One former Democratic leader expressed doubt that the party's audit would be unsullied.

Former party Treasurer Robert Artisst said he noticed during his tenure a few irregularities involving checks not dually signed by the treasurer and another executive committee member. He said a separate series of the party's checks, of which he had no knowledge, were being used.

"I did raise questions about the second series of checks and presented them to the members," Mr. Artisst said.

The party has an account with Independence Federal Bank for its day-to-day operations, Mr. Artisst said. The teachers union also has an account with Independence Federal, which is under scrutiny because of several large cash transactions in some cases as much as $10,000 carried out by Mr. Holmes.

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